I am not a Rand Paul aficionado, but Congress and the government would be far, far better off if more elected officials possessed his integrity and courage.
Currently he is being attacked, as those with integrity and courage often are, for objecting to the text of a piece of pure legislative grandstanding called the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, which would make lynching a federal crime. “You think I take joy in being here?” Paul said. “I will be excoriated by simple minded people on the internet who think somehow I don’t like Emmet Till or appreciate the history or memory of Emmett Till.”
Indeed he has been, but Paul’s point is unassailable: there hasn’t been a lynching in this country in more than 50 years, so the bill has approximately the same urgency as the Albert Packer Anti-Cannibalism Act, or a law making slave-hunting a federal crime. Most Senators, indeed all of them except Paul, seem to be willing to pass by unanimous consent this bill designed to further pander to the George Floyd demonstrators/rioters/looters, perhaps because some commentators and activists in their enthusiasm called Floyd’s death a “lynching.” Justice Thomas, as I recall, also called the effort to smear him and block his ascent to the Supreme Court by producing pre-#MeToo accuser Anita Hill a “high tech lynching.” But neither were lynchings; as Lincoln observed, calling a dog’s tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.
Among his many objections to the bill, Paul pointed out that nearly none of his colleagues have read it, that it was sloppily written, and that too many laws get passed this way. “Someone has to read these bills and make sure they do what they say they’re going to do rather than it be just a big PR effort,” he said.
I can vouch for that: I read the bill, it is incomprehensible, and it’s primarily a mea culpa for Jim Crow pretending to be a bill. It goes on and on about the history of lynching and how it once was a terrible problem, but never suggests that anyone is still being lynched, because no one is. Never mind: the anti-lynching law, we discover when we get to the very end, will apply to any “hate crime” in which an individual is harmed by police out of racial animus. It is, in fact, an entire law embodying the hot rationalization of recent weeks, #64, Yoo’s Rationalization, or “It isn’t what it is.”
Laws shouldn’t do that, Senator Paul argued. He said that the bill could allow excessive penalties against those who commit racially motivated acts of violence, far short of lynching, like slapping or pushing. “Words have meaning,” he said. “It would be a disgrace for the Congress of the United States to declare that a bruise is lynching, that an abrasion is lynching, that any injury to the body, no matter how temporary, is on par with the atrocities done to people like Emmett Till.” Indeed, he read the bill. It could indeed be employed that way, which makes it, as he said, a bad and sloppy law. “The bill as written would allow altercations resulting in a cut, abrasion, bruise, or any other injury no matter how temporary to be subject to a 10-year penalty,” Paul said. “My amendment would simply apply a serious bodily injury standard, which would ensure crimes resulting in substantial risk of death and extreme physical pain be prosecuted as a lynching.”
If one had any doubts that Paul was the one keeping his head while all about him were losing there’s and blaming it on him, the arguments offered by Democrats Cory Booker and Kamala Harris against Paul would erase them. Senator Booker said the notion that anyone would be charged with lynching for slapping someone was “absurd.” The law would allow someone to be charged with lynching for inflicting bodily harm. It is not absurd to object to a law that allows absurd and unjust interpretations. The argument, “Oh, we would never do that!” is undercut by the rich history of over-zealous prosecution.
“The frustrating thing for me is that at a time this country hungers for common-sense racial reconciliation, an acknowledgment of our past and a looking forward to a better future, this will be one of the sad days where that possibility was halted,” Booker blathered. Huh? How does a law against a non-existent crime that will open the door to calling acts not constituting that crime what those acts are not, thus punishing them more harshly, qualify as “common sense”?
Harris was worse. “To suggest that anything short of pulverizing someone so much that the casket would otherwise be closed except for the heroism and courage of Emmett Till’s mother, to suggest that lynching would only be a lynching if someone’s heart was pulled out and produced and displayed to someone else, is ridiculous,” Harris said, setting a new high bar for straw man arguments. On “The View,” she made even less sense, which given her audience, I suppose is understandable:
“It has been over 100 years that people have been trying to pass in the United States Senate, in the United States Congress, an anti-lynching bill I felt very strongly about,’ Harris said. Yes, Senator, that’s because a hundred years ago blacks were being lynched. Are we going to have a wave of nostalgia bills now, passing laws that are moot?
This woman was once considered a strong candidate for President.
She went on, “What Rand Paul is doing, which is one man holding up what would be a historic bill recognizing one of the great sins of America — and it was on the day of George Floyd’s funeral which just added insult to injury and frankly made it so painful that on that day that’s what was happening.”
Yes, Kamala Harris thinks that it is responsible to rush a bad bill into law because a funeral is being held.
Praise is due to Senator Paul for opposing unserious lawmaking on serious topics, while others in his party yawn and shrug, “Whatever.”